By Jeff Geiger

Mary Rice, Director of Laboratory Services at SLVHRMC

San Luis Valley Health Regional Medical Center (SLVHRMC) began using DNA amplification to detect the bacteria which causes Strep Throat (group A streptococcus) in January.

The new method promised to deliver 53-percent more positive results of the bacteria. However, after analyzing the results of the first six months, an average of 61-percent more positive results are being detected at the regional medical center.

Quicker, More Effective Treatment

A benefit of detecting strep throat using the DNA amplification is to begin the correct treatment sooner. Also, more reliable and quicker results prevent unnecessary antibiotic treatment in a patient with a negative test. This reduces the likelihood of creating antibiotic resistant bacteria.

"The old method would take at least 48 hours," said Mary Rice, director of Laboratory Services at SLVHRMC. " The new method takes only about 45 minutes so if the patient came in the morning then they'll know the results on the same day."

Removing Human Error

The previous culture method depended on several unreliable factors. For instance, one had to obtain enough living organism on the culture swab to inoculate the growing medium.

"There was more human error," said Rice. "What if the swab missed the one living organism ? What if it did make it on the swab, but it didn't transfer onto the plate?"

With the new method, the organism does not need to be living and can be present in just a few colonies. This is because DNA amplification method allows the technician to insert the swab into a liquid medium, where the DNA of the organism is detected and forced to replicate millions of times.

Priority: Accurate Results

Using a photometric technique , a change can be identified in turbidity by comparing it to a blank solution. This allows for a more reliable detection of the absence of the bacteria's DNA.

"Our priority is accurate results," said Digna Senson, microbiology supervisor. "This new technology allows us to make sure the patient gets what they need when they need it.

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